Alone, I stood on the platform and waited for the six-thirty train to arrive. The heavy downpour that had started well over an hour ago continued. Lightning sparked brightly in the distance while thunder spoke softly in echo over the hills. Time was held in its voice, age was in its sound.
I sighed and sat my small black case on the platform near my feet. I had not planned on the weather being this foul, and even with my collar up, my clothing was little help in keeping out the wind and rain. Turning, I found a wooden bench behind me that creaked as it took my weight. The sound of the rainfall, combined with the growing darkness relaxed my senses.
Lost in my thoughts, I heard the man’s shoes scuffle on the wet sidewalk a moment before I saw him round the corner.
I nodded to him, apparently a farmer by way of his attire, and he nodded back. He leaned on a post and put his hands in his pockets and waited as well.
Before long the farmer cleared his throat and spoke. “Hey, son. Are you waiting for the seven p.m. Mills?”
“No, sir. I’m taking the six-thirty from here to Franklin,” I replied politely.
He nodded and looked back at the tracks. He kept whistling a tune, a little ditty, under his breath as he stood there and tapped his foot nervously. It was obvious by his manner that he was impatient.
“Expecting someone?” he asked me. “No, wait,” he held his hand to his chin. “By the black case you have and your clothes you’re traveling.”
I nodded and he smiled.
“My turn to guess for you,” I said, being drawn into his simple game. Talking with someone kept my mind off things and helped pass the idle time away. “Your clothing is that of a farmer. You are waiting for someone you care about to come from Mills and you have not seen them in a while.”
“Close, mostly, I am heading to Mills. May I?” he asked and I moved over sliding my case with me so he could have room enough to sit comfortably on the bench. “I’m on my way to Mills to get my wife. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen her and she’s not expecting me. I find it hard to wait,” he rubbed his hands together and placed them on his lap. He was fidgety and kept tapping his fingers on his legs.
His clothing looked new, as if he had purchased everything for this special occasion. His grooming was in stark contrast with his clothing, however. He wore his hair in a long braid much like an Indian of the west might. But his hair was brown, not black, and he didn’t look like an Indian. I had seen some on the movie screen at the local theater. His accent was hard to place. I admit that I was not the worldly gent I tried to make myself seem. I thought he was probably from the old country and let it be.
“I just came from Mills. My mother is in a hospital there,” I said.
“Ah, I see,” he folded his arms across his chest and stroked his thick beard. “She hurt?” I heard his concern, but knew his thoughts were absent.
“A sickness actually. Hopefully she’ll be better soon.”
“The cancer?” Talking calmed him and seemed to take his mind off things. He became fidgety.
“At times I wish it was a cancer. Not that I want to wish that kind of death on anyone, but at least then they would know for certain.”
“A terrible thing, cancer is. What could be worse, you say?”
“There is this sickness,” I began, taking a deep breath, “that is making her grow old. I mean, she is getting older faster than anyone normally would. She’s my mother, but to look at her you would believe that she is my grandmother. She is in her mid-forties but already her hair is white and the aches have her and won’t let go. She’s been in the hospital off and on for all but a month now.”
“My word,” he said. He had stopped fidgeting. He no longer tapped his fingers or toes. We sat there under the green slate roof of the train platform and watched the rain fall just a few feet away.
“Do they have a name for that disease?”